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Saturday Night Sleeper: "The Machinist" (2004)

(The Verge) – Moments into Director Brad Anderson’s psychological thriller, The Machinist, an emaciated Christian Bale is seen rolling a corpse into a body of water, while battered and beaten and under much duress. Turns out, he plays an insomniac whose condition is rapidly worsening and who believes his co-workers and slim number of people he socializes with are out for vengeance. Supported by a not-so-powerful cast, including John Sharian (CSI: Miami) and Jennifer Jason Leigh (Fast Times at Ridgemont High), Bale alleviates the lack of stardom with an edgy, indulging performance.
The film does not waste an instant to develop its eerie, psychosomatic tone. With its grey backdrop throughout and the powerfully provocative cinematography, it turns out the film is one of the best thrillers of that year, while also comparing closely to Christopher Nolan’s Insomnia (2002) and David Fincher’s Fight Club (1999).
Bale, “Trevor Reznik,” is a troubled insomniac who spends his days laboring at a factory and his nights wide awake, cleaning

Surprisingly “The Machinist” is an excellent film that may be slightly unknown. Image taken from: cdn.mos.totalfilm.com

his hands with bleach or scrubbing each tile in his bathroom with a toothbrush. He sometimes sought refuge in a call girl, Stevie (Leigh) and even cracked a smile while under the tutelage (of sorts) by a local diner waitress every night at 1:30 a.m. His insomnia reaches a whole new level once he meets a mysterious drifter, Ivan (Sharian) who takes one of the shifts at the factory. While dozing off in the direction of the new employee, Reznik fails to help his co-worker Miller whose arm becomes stuck (and severed) in the machinery. From this point on, Reznik concludes that all of those he comes across have a personal vendetta against him. Fired from his job, he tries to piece together why Ivan always seems to be uncomfortably close to him.
Reznik goes as far as leaping in front of a car to report an injury and a complimentary hit and run to the police to try and pinpoint this ‘Ivan’ character. Told it was his own car who had hit him, Reznik flees the police’s questions, baffled by the course of events that were unfolding. While his life slowly crumbles apart, Reznik also tries to answer why a Hangman game is constantly pictured on a sticky-note on his refrigerator. He believes one piece of evidence, a photograph of Ivan, who is supposedly the culprit to all Bale’s miscues, is the key to ending the entire charade. As the film progresses, the plot tightens and questions are slowly answered, while powerful motifs aid the viewer in trying to guess what is coming next. Certain characters become crucial and certain nuances turn into crucial puzzle-pieces for the mystery. Even chunks of dead fish in Reznik’s freezer play a role in helping Reznik piece together his inner dilemma and battle against something which has kept him awake for at least a year.
The film’s strong suit comes from its intricate plot and jaw dropping close-ups on Bale, who cut 60 pounds for the role. Another facet to Anderson’s brilliance here is the chopped up script, which slowly combines to answer the most glaring questions. To not mention the cinematography, however, would also be a crime…
Akin to his role in “American Psycho,” Bale brings an eerie uniqueness to his role as Trevor Reznik. Image taken from: dvdbeaver.com

Blessed by Xavi Gimenez’s profoundly unique photography and added edgy greyness, the film culminates to be a gutsy thrill ride. Whether its Bale’s grotesque appearance or the daunting editing that allowed the cinematography to come to life, the overall impression is that the film succeeds in creating a spectral, nerve wrenching atmosphere.
Personally I found the film gripping and enticing, while Bale’s performance seems overwhelmingly underrated. Grossing only a little over $8 million in theaters, The Machinist is a wildcard pick for an entertaining 102 minutes; it even has a favorable rating on the all-telling “Rotten Tomatoes” site. So if you have the option of seeing it, make the financially-safe decision of conforming and trying to guess just what is plaguing Reznik throughout. But prepare to be asking yourself questions and absorbing all the film’s motifs. Oh and for the record, no, Ivan is not Laurence Fishburne.